Women in Business Q&A: Sofia Crokos, Sofia Crokos Events

Sofia Crokos brings passion and boundless enthusiasm to her work. Her boutique event-planning firm, Sofia Crokos Events (SCE), embraces both the largest and smallest events with equal amounts of inspiration, creativity and precision.

Growing up in a large Greek-American family in Brooklyn, New York, Sofia learned to appreciate the subtle balancing act of the art of entertaining. From setting an exquisite table, to jumping into the kitchen with her family and stirring up a delicious meal, to always keeping the conversation flowing - all were skills deeply ingrained in her from childhood.

Sofia's diverse personal passions contribute to her aesthetic vision. Her inspiration stems from her background in fashion, to exploring many types of cuisines and her travels around the world. All of these elements are blended effortlessly in her work and she brings warmth, confidence and personalization to all the celebrations that she produces.

Headquartered in New York City with a satellite office in Athens, Greece, she is an internationally recognized expert in her field who has planned exceptional events since 1998 in Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and the United States. SCE is a highly sought-after event-planning firm, which individually tailors each eventuniquely to the needs and desires of each client. Sofia's work ethic and her hands-on management throughout all phases of the planning and execution process has garnered her a prominent place in the industry.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I've learned through my ups and downs, and probably more through my downs. I think the best lessons are learned through mistakes rather than when things are moving along smoothly. Mistakes make you stronger.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at the helm of Sofia Crokos Events?
Most important is my background and foundation in fashion. After going to school at F.I.T. I interned with Donna Karan and worked with Calvin Klein as well as other smaller designers like Byron Lars.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Sofia Crokos Events?
It was a challenge starting off as a small company, not having enough help, taking baby steps and facing difficult questions about when to expand my team and business. I did a lot on my own, starting from scratch and wearing all these different occupational hats--business, creative, etc.

However, it was a pleasure to see my name and reputation grow in the industry as a result of this hard work. I became more comfortable in my own skin as I gained experience planning successful events. I became more confident in my creations, and it was a highlight for me to see that I was really gaining clients' trust. I got to travel the world and meet some wonderful people, whether that meant planning a magnificent affair in Istanbul, Turkey, or arranging Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey's wedding in the Hamptons.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
It's nice to get some initial experience in that field. Be clear about what you want. A lot of people have ideas but they don't execute those ideas. Execution is important. If you let ideas flounder in the brainstorming stage, you aren't following your dream. Don't give up in the face of minor obstacles. Stick to what you know and stick to your passion. Be smart: tap into your personal network and people you know in your chosen industry. Be inquisitive: ask people questions and then follow-up--that part is very important.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
There has to be a time-out period for you to regroup. Sometimes we lose ourselves in the rat race and life's daily concerns. This can make you lose confident in yourself because you feel like you're falling behind and not moving fast enough, especially in New York, which moves very fast. I've learned to take a step back and re-center myself. Ultimately I believe that a person's career doesn't define who they are--it is an extension of their self. Ultimately I am Sofia: loving, caring friend, not Sofia: events planner.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Breathing. I take really deep yoga breaths. I've incorporated yoga, walks on the beach, and that time-out moment I just described into my life. I make sure to give personal relationships their due priority, having dinner with my husband or catching up with friends. Checking in with yourself and loved ones is key because otherwise we lose sight of what's most important. Sometimes it's not easy, especially when I have an event happening on the weekend, but I do my best. Phone calls for work end at 6 pm. I look at life differently in my 40s than I did in my 30s, and I start my day writing in a journal of gratitude. I am still in awe of the idea that I work in this beautiful field, creating beauty for others.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
We have to overcome common perceptions about women, such as being too sensitive or overly dramatic. Many women are known as complainers. But of course women are as diverse in their temperaments as men. Just be yourself, be authentic, and someone will understand you.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I was blessed to learn from an amazing mentor in the events planning business. This woman opened up her world to me and guided me through it. She saw that I had a thirst in life and that I was really going for it. I've since referred to her as my "fairy godmother" because she was there for the first five to seven years of my professional life. I deferred a lot to her because I knew that she understood my passion. Extremely crucial to our relationship was a sense of trust, and my mentor gave me my first gig for a tented wedding in Bedford, New York. It was a big moment for me because college and formal education can only take you so far; this was real-world education through experience.

In my personal life, my mom has been my mentor. She's my rock. She gave me a lot of confidence and willpower, telling me, "Never give up. You've got to be tough."

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I really admire Diane von Furstenburg, the "Queen of the Wrap Dress." She's an incredible designer who empowered women to drop the whole fear thing and I thought it was genius when she created her first wrap dress. She's smart and sexy beyond a superficial level. I've heard her speak at events and you can see how confident she is and how good she feels about herself--that is sexy to me.

Growing up in the '80s I also admire another strong woman: Madonna. She was a true artist: never afraid to expose herself however she felt appropriate. I can also relate to Chelsea Handler's raw and edgy style. She's not afraid to be confrontational, and sometimes she's wrong (though usually she is right) but she can own those moments and move past them.

What do you want the Sofia Crokos Events to accomplish in the next year?
I already have plenty of experience doing events in far-flung places like Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean, but I'd like to do more traveling and destination events. I'd also like to do more speaking engagements, with a focus on empowering other women starting their own businesses. And I'd like to begin work on a book, which is something I've been considering for a while now.